New endorsements for marijuana ballot initiatives in November

Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 4:17 PM CDT
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This November marks an important election.

Among the notable topics expected to be on the ballot are two marijuana initiatives.

Those include initiated measure IM 26, A measure to legalize medical marijuana in South Dakota.

And Constitutional Amendment A, which would allow people 21 and older to possess and purchase up to an ounce of marijuana and establish a 15% tax on marijuana sales.

Both “South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws” and the “New Approach South Dakota” virtually kicked off their campaigns Wednesday.

They’ve announced 50 South Dakotans endorsing the marijuana ballot initiatives for this November’s election.

Among those in support includes former U.S. attorney for South Dakota Brendan Johnson.

Johnson said, “For those of us who are concerned about the over-criminalization on cannabis, who do want to see the economic benefit of both reducing prison population as well as increasing our tax dollars, having these two initiatives together, I think, makes the most sense.”

A pillar belief in both initiatives is the positive impact on the state’s economy.

Chuck Parkinson, former Reagan & Abdnor Professional Staffer, said, “The estimates are, from the legislative research council, that in the first year could raise $30 million. You can use that money for public schools, you can also use it to help in rehabilitation efforts. There are a lot of options available out there. It’s time to try something new.”

In addition to tax dollars, an increase in tourism is another focal point in the campaign.

Drey Samuelson, the Political Director for South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, said, “Everybody in South Dakota knows tourism is a very big industry in our state. How big it will be? It's hard to say but there certainly will be somewhat of an increase, no question."

Head of New Approach South Dakota Melissa Mentele said, “People that used to come here and love it, stopped coming because our laws are so harsh and with medical reciprocity, it really does open our medical program up to something different and I think it will really increase that tourism.”

As for their campaign plan, they’re currently working on advertising as well as putting a heavy focus on absentee ballots.

“To ensure that people understand with COVID and the protest and the unrest in the world right now, that November is a long way off and we do have to have a plan on being able to vote. So, we are going to encourage people to return those absentee ballot applications,” said Mentele.

South Dakota is not alone, other states including New Jersey, Arizona, Mississippi, and Montana are all expected to have a type of marijuana reform on their ballots this Fall.

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